Turkish police, crowds clash after teen's funeral

AP News
Posted: Mar 12, 2014 3:39 PM
Turkish police, crowds clash after teen's funeral

ISTANBUL (AP) — Riot police clashed with anti-government protesters in Istanbul and other Turkish cities following Wednesday's funeral of a teenager, who had been in a coma since a police tear-gas canister struck him in the head last year.

Police fired water cannons and tear gas to stop a crowd of thousands from reaching Istanbul's main square following a funeral service for 15-year old Berkin Elvan. Anti-government protests have flared since Berkin's death Tuesday.

Earlier, tens of thousands joined a funeral procession in Istanbul as Berkin's coffin was carried through the streets. Many called for the resignation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mourners chanted "Berkin Elvan is immortal!" ''Government resign!" and "Murderer Tayyip!" Some hurled stones at a ruling party building, smashing its windows.

Police also used tear gas and water cannon to drive back protesters in the capital, Ankara, and the third-largest city, Izmir. Protests were reported in at least eight other cities.

The state-run Anadolu Agency said 73 people were arrested in Ankara. It and police provided no arrest figures for Istanbul.

Protesters' anger is focused on Erdogan, in part, because he is blamed for ordering often heavy-handed crackdowns on anti-government protests since June 2013 and has lauded the riot police as heroes. Eight people, including Berkin, were mortally wounded in last summer's street clashes.

Erdogan is fighting allegations of corruption. He has been accused of seeking to derail investigations into government corruption by firing police and prosecutors from key positions.

Turkey holds local elections March 30. Erdogan has acknowledged the results will serve as a referendum on his rule.

Berkin's family says he was on his way to buy bread when he became swept up in a street protest and was struck in the head by a high-velocity gas canister. Several police officers were questioned about Berkin's injury but no one has been charged.

The protests began as a small protest against government plans to redevelop a central Istanbul park but, after police used force against those protesters, grew into nationwide demonstrations against Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian style.